UK’s public EV charging network needs ‘urgent upgrade’ as drivers slam reliability and payment issues

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Consumer group Which? calls on Government to take action as it finds three out of four drivers unhappy with public charging provision

The UK’s public EV charger network needs to be urgently upgraded to address “significant flaws” with reliability and access, according to Which?

The consumer group has called for the Government to take urgent action to improve public infrastructure after it found many drivers continued to struggle with unreliable chargers and a confusing array of payment requirements.

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It warned that some motorists were being driven away from public charging entirely and called on the Government, chargepoint operators and local councils to do more to improve provision and user-friendliness.

Which? polled around 1,500 of its members who drive EVs or plug-in hybrids and found 74% were dissatisfied with the current state of the UK’s public charging network.

The Which survey found 40% of drivers had experienced a broken chargerThe Which survey found 40% of drivers had experienced a broken charger
The Which survey found 40% of drivers had experienced a broken charger | Adobe stock

The survey found that 40% had experienced broken chargers and almost half (48%) said they struggled to find chargers in “good working condition”. It also found that 60% had faced problems trying to make a payment and 84% wanted payment options to be simplified.

While some chargepoints, especially newer rapid chargers, accept contactless payment by debit or credit card, many still require users to download an app or create a customer account even for a single charging session.

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Infrastructure falling short

The Government announced plans earlier this year to force chargepoint operators to simplify the payment process and improve reliability but Which?’s head of consumer protection policy, Sue Davies, said the changes were not happening quickly enough.

She said: “Our research shows that the public EV charging infrastructure is falling short as many drivers struggle to find reliable charging points in good working order, have to navigate confusing payment systems, or are unable to rely on adequate charging points close to their homes or to get them through a long journey.”

Among the planned legislation in the Government’s electric vehicle infrastructure strategy is a requirement for a 99% reliability rate across all rapid chargers. However, Which? wants this extended to all public chargers.

Ms Davies added: “The Government must move quickly to implement its plans to improve the consumer experience of using the public charging networks by extending reliability standards across the full network and ensuring proposals for payment roaming make paying to charge much simpler. Drivers should be able to pay via bank card wherever possible, or via a single app or payment card that is accepted by all networks.

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“Charging must be easy, reliable and seamless to support people making the move to an electric car.”

Responding the the survey, RAC electric vehicle spokesman Simon Williams said: “Having quality charging infrastructure will be a key factor in helping more people switch from conventional vehicles to electric ones. It’s vitally important that chargers are reliable, easy to use and accessible, so we must quickly move from the era where it’s common to find an out-of-use charger to one where it’s a rarity.”

The study also found EV drivers were critical of the spread of public infrastructure. The number of chargers is constantly growing around the country - up by 34% since August 2021, with almost 1,600 new devices installed in August 2022 alone - but many drivers feel there are still not enough public options near them.

Almost half (48%) believe they do not have adequate access to charge points close to their homes and 45% felt this was the case while on journeys. Of those who said they had stopped using the public network, a fifth said this was due to a lack of availability.

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